Aston Villa could take only a point away from their trip to the Madejski. Reading goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez prevented a first away win for Dean Smith’s men since Boxing Day.
James Chester’s persisting knee problem ruled him out of the tie. So new recruit Tyrone Mings replaced him at the heart of the defence. This was the only change following the win over Ipswich Town at Villa Park last weekend.
Villa began the game with more confidence than the hosts. Tammy Abraham came close on 15 minutes. But the Chelsea loanee squandered a perfect opportunity to get his 20th goal of the campaign. As Anwar El Ghazi shifted inside from the left flank, he struck towards Martinez. The Argentine could only parry towards Abraham, but he somehow managed to head wide from only yards out.
Without too much penetration against Reading’s goal after a dominant early spell, a corner from the right side of the pitch almost unlocked the home side. Tommy Elphick crashed the bar with a header after he connected with Conor Hourihane’s cross. With Martinez scrambling between the sticks, Elphick was disappointed he didn’t manage to convert on the 35th minute.
A late first-half flurry of chances came the way of Lovre Kalinic’s goal. The Croatian goalkeeper was able to prevent a long-range effort from Nelson Oliveira by getting down his right side quickly. John Swift also caused problems on Alan Hutton’s side, by beating him and crossing on two separate occasions. Though Elphick and Mings stood up to the task.
Crossing from wide areas
A theme of the match – crossing from wide areas – caused problems for both defences. If it wasn’t for Martinez’s reflexes once more, Villa would’ve taken the lead on the 80th minute. El Ghazi cut inside from Andy Yiadom, before swinging in an accurate cross towards Abraham who looked certain to win the game for the visitors. Martinez, however, clawed Tammy’s header from underneath the crossbar to preserve a stalemate at the Madejski.
In a frantic final ten, plus 8 minutes added time, Villa looked to pursue the goal that would take them into the playoff picture. Substitute Jonathan Kodjia’s attempt from 25 yards on the half volley was as good as it got for a Villa side in desperate need of a string of results to kick start a strong end to a poor comparing so far.
Sheffield United will now travel to Villa Park on Friday night.